Flu Season: How bad has it been?
March 19, 2018

By mid-January, the flu season had already made a name for itself as the most widespread on record since officials began keeping track 13 years ago, according to the Washington Post.

Flu had a vigorous early start in October 2017 and, by January 2018, officials did not believe it had peeked. About 9,000 people had been hospitalized with the flu during that period.

This year’s flu had already caused more deaths in children than was typical by July, with 10 child deaths by Jan. 13.

Part of the reason for the relative nastiness of the season is the star of the show: the H3N2 version of the virus.

Centers for Disease Control flu expert Daniel Jernigan said that this 50-year-old strain is quick to mutate to defeat the body’s immune system. “Of the viruses we hate, we hate H3N2 more than the other ones,” Jernigan said.

The CDC estimates that flu has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths each year in the United States since 2010.

The season could last well past March 2018 and possibly later.

Doctor house calls are making a comeback
March 18, 2018

The practice of doctors making house calls to treat their patients, once the norm decades ago, has witnessed an uptrend in recent years, according to U.S. News. They highlight an aging mother that felt she suffered more during her experience traveling to a doctor for routine care than she benefited from the treatment itself due to her limited mobility.

Her and her family’s solution, a house call-only independent doctor, served as her primary care physician, coordinated her care with specialists, and even drove her to the hospital when necessary for five years before her death. Receiving attention in this way improved her quality of life and preserved the decency people deserve in their medical care by providing a more personal connection to her doctor than she would get waiting in line for hurried service at an office.

Doctors, for their part, also have reasons to enjoy doing things a little differently than the standard office practice. One such doctor explains that visiting a patient’s home allows them to see a bigger slice of their life and not just their physical ailments. A house in disarray, with signs of neglect, for instance, can signal more significant problems that might need the attention of someone other than a doctor. They also enjoy the feeling of community that comes with taking care of people in proximity to their home and establishing a relationship with them outside of their visits.

In addition to making patients and doctors feel better about their care, one study from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that the entire medical industry might benefit from the shift in traveling doctors as the average senior using a house call provider paid $8,477 less, on average, than those who didn’t. These same patients were also less likely to be hospitalized, visit the emergency room, or see a specialist which saves everyone time and money in the long run.

March is Workplace Eye Health and Safety Month
March 7, 2018

Let’s take a moment to review eye protection. The estimates vary, but most authorities say there are at least 1,000 eye injuries in American workplaces each day and that number could be low by half.

Workplace eye injuries cost more than $300 million a year in lost productivity, treatment, and compensation, according to OSHA. These injuries range from simple eye strain to trauma, which may lead to permanent damage, vision loss, and blindness.

The most serious injuries occur in construction, manufacturing, and mining, which account for about 40 percent of eye injuries in the workplace.

Craft workers are most at risk for eye injuries. More than a third of injured workers are assemblers, sanders, grinding machine operators and laborers. Almost half are in manufacturing and slightly more than 20 percent in construction.
Flying particles, falling objects, or sparks caused 70 percent of the accidents. Most flying objects were smaller than a pin head and were said to be traveling faster than a hand-thrown object when the accident occurred. Contact with chemicals caused one-fifth of the eye injuries.

Others were caused by objects swinging from an attached position that were pulled into the eye while a worker was using them. Many workers should have been wearing glasses with side eye shields.

A culture of safety that protects workers’ eyes with the right type of protection is the only way to prevent eye injury.

Weightlifting is experiencing a renaissance
February 26, 2018

As more and more people are learning about how exercise can help improve their quality of life, weightlifting has seen staggering growth among adults in America. According to The Wall Street Journal, the sport’s popularity has been rising due to the prevalence of CrossFit-style training gyms and the exposure of weightlifting personalities on social media that have helped push the idea into the mainstream.

Whether the direction comes from a personal trainer or just a local gym, the community of weightlifting has been very welcoming to newcomers who need help to succeed.

CNBC highlights the fact that there are over 13,000 CrossFit gyms across the world and over 4 million people subscribe to its philosophy which revolves around functional movements that aim to improve a person’s work capacity as well as translating well to other sports and physical activities. These gyms can be started relatively inexpensively and the type of community that forms is more interested in overall health and fitness than transforming into the Hulk.

Far from wanting the extreme body of today’s professional bodybuilders, in fact, most people who turn to lifting weights do so to help improve their day-to-day quality of life and to help prevent premature aging. As The Telegraph points out, many middle-aged men and women who found themselves riddled with anxiety, lacking focus, and overwhelmed with fatigue have found relief with basic weightlifting performed several times each week. In fact, weightlifting is a goldmine for the over-forty crowd, helping to maintain a healthy metabolism, preventing age-related stomach fat, helping control blood sugar in diabetic patients, improving bone density, and even promoting a more positive mood by increasing the amount of serotonin produced in the brain.

It’s a good sign for America’s obesity epidemic that weightlifting and other forms of exercise have been gaining momentum and, according to the State of Obesity Organization, in fact, obesity rates have been leveling off in recent years and currently sit at about 38 percent of all adults. Far from just losing a few pounds, a lifestyle that includes fitness as a major foundational piece will help lead to a more healthy population and weightlifting seems to be pulling its weight in this area.

One shot could someday reduce heart attack risk
February 24, 2018

Gene therapy might lead to a one-time vaccine-like treatment that would permanently lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack by as much as 88 percent.

Heart disease is currently responsible for about one in every four deaths in the United States, adding up to more than 600,000 deaths each year.

According to the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, however, new genome research shows great promise of permanently reducing the risk of heart attack.

Work on this project first started in France in 2003 when researchers discovered that a specific gene in the liver, PCSK9, seemed to be responsible for cholesterol regulation. Some families with a mutation of this gene had very high cholesterol and were very likely to have early heart attacks.

Meanwhile, in Texas, another research group identified a population that had a different kind of mutation of PCSK9 — this time a very good mutation. This mutation produced the opposite effect. People with the mutation have very low levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad) cholesterol levels. What’s more, they were significantly less likely to have a heart attack.

A recently developed gene editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9 allowed these researchers to alter the PCSK9 gene in mice to convert it to the good version that would potentially help them live longer. This change caused the liver to stop producing a particular protein that would prevent the removal of cholesterol in the bloodstream. It also solved the problem that traditional cholesterol drugs have – they don’t last very long. Rather than constantly having to get shots or take medicine to reduce cholesterol, scientists hypothesize that it may be possible to have a lifetime change in effect with just one application.

B12 for proper brain functioning
February 19, 2018

The super vitamin B12 is a multitasker. It helps regulate how you feel, how well you think, and even appetite.

Vitamin B12 is known to help the brain produce chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood and anxiety.

When people don’t have enough B12 they experience symptoms such as fatigue, mouth or tongue soreness, constipation and a loss of appetite. They may be confused, have poor memory or feel depressed.

Although certain cereals and breads are often fortified with B12, animal proteins are really the only natural sources. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2.4 mcg of B12 daily from three ounces of beef or three cups of milk. Foods rich in B12 include liver, meat, eggs, poultry, shellfish, milk and milk products such as cheese and yogurt.

The stomach acid needed to absorb B12 declines with age, disease and behavior. Heavy drinking and even potassium supplements block absorption. So can heavy use of antacids. Diseases such as celiac and Crohn’s may render people unable to absorb adequate amounts of B12 from food.

Stent patients should beware of sleep apnea, study warns
February 18, 2018

Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep problem, has long been linked to coronary artery disease, stroke and other heart-related problems.

A new study takes these findings further, linking OSA to blood clot formation in stents in heart patients.
The condition, called stent thrombosis, is a life threatening problem.

Writing in the August 2017 issue of BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, researchers found that patients with OSA had a 7.34 times greater risk of stent thrombosis than patients without OSA.

People with OSA frequently snore and gasp for breath during sleep. They can be excessively sleepy during the daytime and have insomnia at night. They also have frequent incidents of nightmares.

OSA affects the cardiovascular system by disrupting the balance of clotting and anticlotting factors, leaving the person predisposed to blood clotting, according to Duke Medicine.

OSA increases the risk of stroke for both men and women, but men with OSA have double or triple the risk. OSA is a treatable condition. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is one treatment.

The new study also suggests that in stent surgery on OSA patients, cleaning out plaque before inserting a stent might reduce rates of later thrombosis. The researchers also advised using the largest stent possible and following up with the most potent antiplatelet drugs to inhibit clots.

Broken hearts are a real medical issue
February 13, 2018

If you have a heart, it will be broken, the bards say. Sadly, the doctors say a broken heart can actually be an illness.

According to Harvard Medical School, broken-heart syndrome, also called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, was first identified several decades ago in Japan. Although rarely diagnosed, it is most commonly seen in older women.

Patients experience a dramatic stressor in their lives (death, violence, or fear). The event causes a surge in hormones such as adrenaline. These hormones can stun the heart and lead to irregularities of the heart’s proper functions. The left ventricle in the heart weakens and balloons outward in a strange shape that looks like a Japanese octopus trap (a tako-tsubo). When a patient has this feature and no blocks in the coronary arteries, doctors can distinguish the disorder from a heart attack.

For the patient, it feels like a heart attack with chest pain and shortness of breath.

Medical professionals thought for many years that takotsubo sufferers could recover in about a month without any long-term repercussions but recent research published in the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography has shown that it can have an impact for years after the initial event. These patients exhibited lingering signs that were very similar to those found in people with chronic heart failure – a condition that involves heart muscle death and does not currently have a reliable cure.

Superbugs have a natural enemy
February 8, 2018

The looming scourge of the superbug — bacteria that antibiotics can’t kill — threatens to bring back the era of death by infection.

But there is hope on the horizon.

Superbugs will be responsible for over 10 million deaths per year globally by the year 2050, according to the BBC. Even as recently as 2014, around 700,000 deaths can be blamed on infections that couldn’t be cured with modern antibiotics. The World Health Organization classifies these bugs as an imminent threat to human health.

According to a Time Magazine special report, one treatment currently being researched attacks these superbugs from a completely different angle. This method requires using bacteriophages, or phages, to destroy the bacteria.
Phages are nature’s bacteria fighter, and there are estimated to be around 10 million trillion different phages throughout the world. Phages work by injecting their DNA into a bacterial cell, where it replicates until the bacteria bursts open and dies. Phages are unique in that each strain seems only to attack a particular type of bacteria. This means that treatment with phages will leave the beneficial bacteria intact within the body and just single out the dangerous kind.

Using phages to attack bacteria is not a new idea. They have been used to treat infections throughout the world for nearly a century, but it has had a reputation as an unsafe and clunky treatment. New advances in medical knowledge and technology, however, have shown that this therapy can be a useful cure for cases in which antibiotics have failed, and it remains a promising solution to the impending superbug threat because there is a nearly limitless supply of different phages to use against the bacteria.

Cold or flu, take these basic steps
February 8, 2018

To stop the spread of cold or flu in the household, take these precautions:

– Isolate toothbrushes from others. Replace the brush when the person is well.

– Thoroughly clean humidifiers. You don’t want them throwing around viruses.

– Sleep separately and launder bedding frequently. Even if it is just the pillow cases, hot water washing prevents the spread of germs.

– Clean television remotes. While the sick person binges on television all day for a few days, they are also leaving germs on the remotes.

– Empty trash cans. A lot of sniffling and nose blowing goes on with flu and colds. Make sure tissues have their own trash can and the cans are emptied twice a day.